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12 Gauge Shotgun Shells For Sale
History of 12 Gauge Shotgun Shells
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Used by hunters, sport shooters, military, and law enforcement – the 12 gauge is the most used shotgun shell today and it has existed in its current cartridge configuration since the late 1800s.
Twelve gauge rounds, often seen written as 12ga, are used in a variety of situations, including hunting birds and small game, recreation shooting, and home defense. These ammunitions provide a variety of options in close quarters, but don’t perform well at long distance shots. , Because the projectiles quickly lose their velocity, they require a close-range target, typically 45 yards or less.
What Is a Shotgun Shell?
A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge that’s filled with metallic “shot,” small spherical projectiles contained in a plastic or paper tube called a hull. The shot is often metal and can consist of lead, steel, tungsten, or bismuth. Non-lethal shotgun shells are available and can be loaded with rubber, rock salt, or small bean bags. Shooters can also find shotgun shells loaded with slugs – large, single metal projectiles.
Beneath the shot lies a wad or wadding, made from paper or plastic, which creates a barrier between the shot above it and the powder beneath it.
While original shotgun shells used black powder, today’s 12 gauge ammo uses smokeless powder.
This tube, and all it contains, is mounted to a brass base that houses the large shotgun primer, which is longer than both pistol and rifle primers.
Understanding Shotgun Gauges
Shotgun shells are measured in gauge, which equals the number of lead balls (with a diameter the size of the shotgun’s bore) it takes to make a pound. So for a 12 gauge shotgun, which has an internal barrel measurement of .73 inch, it would take 12 lead balls, each with a diameter of .73 inch, to weigh a pound.
To say it another way, if one were to create a pure lead ball the same size as the bore of a 12 gauge shotgun barrel (.73 inch), that ball would weigh 1/12 of a pound – making it a 12 gauge shotgun.
So when discussing the differences between a 12 gauge vs. 20 gauge, one can determine that the 20 gauge is smaller, as it would take 20 lead balls the diameter of the barrel to make a pound, where only 12 are needed with the 12 gauge.
Development of the Modern Shotgun Shell
Shotgun shells originated from the German blunderbuss, which was a shotgun-like, shoulder-firing musket gun, that developed during the 1600s. By the 1700s, similar firearms spread throughout Europe and bird hunters in England were shooting fowling guns that fired small shot.
Finally, in 1776, the term shotgun was used to describe a firearm that propelled shot. The gun’s popularity soared through the American Civil War and the Wild West. By the mid 1800s, shotgun shell casings were made from full-length brass. And by around 1877, paper hulls with brass bases started to replace the brass shells.
In 1884, Frank Chamberlin patented a machine with the ability to load 1,500 shotshells per hour, a remarkable feat when all shotgun shells of the time were still hand loaded, with supplies only available in the U.S. by Winchester and the Union Metallic Cartridge Company.
With Chamberlin’s success, he was soon in direct competition with the two companies. By 1887, Winchester and the Union Metallic Cartridge Company refused to sell Chamberlin any hulls, primers, or wads, forcing him to purchase supplies from England.
What’s more, both companies, realizing the world of shotgun shells was changing, jumped on the machine-loading bandwagon and bought their own equipment to mass produce shotgun shells. Soon, all three companies were producing box after box of 12 gauge shells.
Winchester and Union Metallic Cartridge Company didn’t just copy Chamberlin’s machine concept. They even mimicked how he shipped ammunition. Because shotgun shells were large and heavy, the average 12 gauge ammo case was fragile and collapsed under the weight. This led Chamberlin to package the shells in boxes of 25, packing 20 together in wooden crates, creating his own case of 12 gauge shells.
Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end for Chamberlin, as he was competing against his suppliers. By 1900, Chamberlin left the ammunition industry and focused instead on trapshooting devices.
But his influence remained, as he made factory shotgun shells that were quality made, effective, and inexpensive. Although some continued to handload their own wildcat cartridges, most shooters opted for premade shotgun shells.
Today’s 12 Gauge Shotgun Shells
Shotgun ammo technology grew by leaps and bounds in the first 50 years of the 1900s. Brass hulls were replaced by paper hulls, and smokeless powder (cleaner and more powerful) replaced black powder.
By the late 1960s, plastic cases grew in popularity and soon became universal, with fewer shooters, both in hunting and sport shooting, opting for paper hulls.
As time went on, 12 gauge ammo became available in a huge variety of forms and functions, mostly a variation in shot size – which refers to the measurement of the individual projectiles inside the shotgun shell.
There are numerous ways to measure shot size, including the American, Euro (which is sometimes called the Standard system), Spanish, Australian, Italian, and more.
Types of 12 Gauge Ammo
The 12 gauge shotgun has been called one of the most versatile firearms ever created, mostly because of the versatility of the ammunition. From fowl hunting and trap shooting to taking whitetail deer and self defense, 12 gauge shotgun shells come in a wide range of uses.
Shotgun shells containing pellets, aka shot, come in sizes ranging from 000 Buck at the largest size to #9 shot at the smallest (it should be mentioned that there is #12 Shot, which is commonly known as snake shot or rat shot and is designed for handguns, but can be found in small bore shotgun shells).
This range of pellet size is often divided into 12 gauge buckshot and birdshot, as well as rounds for trap and skeet shooting. The rounds with the smallest projectiles, like #9 and #8 shotgun shells, are often used in skeet shooting and are known for their short, high-density patterns. Trap shooting, which requires a longer shot, typically sees shooters using a #7.5 shotgun shell.
Birdshot is used for fowl and other small game, including squirrel and varmint. It contains a large amount of fairly small projectiles, ranging from #9 shot at the smallest end, used for doves, to #4 at the large end, appropriate for large birds such as turkey and geese.
Shot found in #3 bridges between birdshot and buckshot, and can be used in brushy area to hunt duck or in close-quarter whitetail deer hunting, where permitted by law.
Those who hunt medium-sized game with shotguns often opt for bulk 12 gauge buckshot, of which the 12 gauge 00 buckshot is the most popular. These rounds can be found in multiple sizes, including (from smallest projectiles to largest):
- #4 buckshot
- #3 buckshot
- #1 buckshot
- #0 buckshot (pronounced “aught”)
- #00 buckshot (“double aught”)
- #000 buckshot (“triple aught”)
- .4 buckshot
The .4 buckshot is slightly larger than the 000 (.4 inch projectiles compared to .36 inch) and, while it can be used for deer hunting, is primarily seen as a self-defense round.
Before hunting with buckshot, check with local jurisdictions, as some places do not allow shotguns for medium or large game and others restrict certain types of ammunition, including lead shot.
Some shooters chose to shoot a 12 gauge ammo slug, which features a single solid projectile designed for hunting large game closer than 100 yards. They work well in hunting because the large size transfers high energy into the target.
Most shotgun barrels spin the slug with rifling. For added accuracy, other slugs are wrapped in a sabot – which is designed to increase range and accuracy of the slug in exchange for projectile weight and energy transfer.
Knowing What 12 Gauge Shotgun Shell to Use When Hunting
When hunting with a shotgun, it’s necessary to understand what ammunition is best for the specific hunting expedition and why. Hunters should consider multiple factors, including range and size of the game, to ensure that the ammunition provides a humane kill (which is most reliant upon penetration).
In most cases, lead shot gives the best ballistic performance, but many hunting areas have environmental restrictions, especially in wetlands where waterfowl hunting is popular. When lead isn’t an option, opt for bismuth, tungsten, or steel. Be aware that when using steel shot, most hunters phase up to a larger shot. This matches the performance of lead shot and provides a good option for cheap 12 gauge slugs and shotshells.
Hunters should choose shotgun shells within a specific range, depending again on their expected range and hunting environment. In addition to shot size, hunters may also look for narrow or wide patterns, again depending on what they are hunting and the environmental conditions.
Narrow patterns, which keep the projectiles closer together, provide a harder shot with reduced deformation. This ammo is best for medium-sized animals and slower-moving game. To achieve the narrow pattern, ammunition manufacturers add buffering like sawdust or plastic to fill the space between the shot.
For wider patterns, which are ideal for smaller animals that move quickly, hunters can opt for ammo that uses a softer lead, which can often be found in cheap 12 gauge shells. Spreader wads can increase the width of a shotshell pattern, as can using projectiles that are deformed, elliptical, or cubical in shape.
Shooters can also find brush loads. Designed for dense cover, this type of 12 gauge ammo combines spreader wads with non-spherical projectiles to blast through vegetation in short-range shots.
Shotguns that Made the 12 Gauge Popular
Multiple shotguns lead to the consistent popularity of the 12 gauge shotgun shell. In the early 1950s, Remington blazed the trail with new products for shotgunners, including the Model 870. Since its introduction in 1950, the Model 870 has proven to be long lasting and smooth, and has become the world’s best-selling shotgun with over 11 million sold.
A decade later, Remington introduced shotgun shells with plastic hulls – which featured a more robust case and kept the contents of the case dry even in the field. Within the next year, O.F. Mossberg & Sons introduced their iconic pump shotgun, the Model 500.
The iconic Model 500 is the only pump action firearm to be given military specs and has proven itself versatile and effective in the field, in the home, and on duty with over 10 million sold throughout the years.
One of the qualities that make 12 gauge shotguns stand out, is their versatility. From the same firearm, shooters can engage in shooting competitions like skeet and trap, they can hunt everything from squirrels to deer, and they can even protect their home – all without doing anything other than changing the gun’s ammunition.
12 Gauge for Self Defense
The use of the 12 gauge for self defense was once the norm, but fell away through the latter half of the 20th century. It’s once again on the rise and for good reason. Shotgun proficiency comes quicker than it does with a handgun, mostly due to the greater accuracy of a long gun.
Twelve gauge shotguns also enjoy the advantage of imparting greater energy than a handgun, as well as an increase in velocity. The average 12 gauge shotgun shell has twice the velocity of a .44 Magnum.
Plus, shotguns are easy to use: Pump the gun. Flip the safety. Pull the trigger. And let’s face it, the telltale click-click sound of a pump-action shotgun is enough to stop most perpetrators in their tracks.
Opting for birdshot can give shooting novices the time to adjust to the firearm’s recoil, as well as reducing the risk of over penetration, especially in self-defense situations.
Because of the resurgence of the self-defense shotgun, specialty ammunition is being produced and includes options for low recoil and combinations of buckshot and smaller pellets. Shooters can choose between rounds like the Personal Defense Buckshot Federal 12 Gauge shotgun shells, which use Flight Control wads and are engineered specifically for in-home use, or the PDX1 Winchester 12 gauge shotgun shells, which features both #00 shot and 12 gauge slug ammo.
From personal protection to many different types of hunting, the 12 gauge is a good choice for many tasks – which is why this shotgun ammunition will remain popular for years to come.
What does 12 gauge mean?
Shotgun shells are measured in gauge, which represents the number of bore-size lead balls it takes to make one pound. In the case of a 12 gauge shotgun, which has a bore (the term for the interior diameter of the barrel) of .73 inch, it takes 12 lead balls, each with a diameter of .73 inch, to make a pound of lead.
What caliber is a 12 gauge shotgun?
Except for the .410, shotgun shells aren’t measured in caliber, they’re measured in gauge. In firearms, caliber measures the internal barrel diameter, or the bore of the barrel and is the measurement used in handguns and rifles. For example, a .223 has an internal barrel diameter of .223 inch. A 9mm has an internal barrel diameter of 9mm. Gauge, on the other hand, is a measurement of how many bore-sized balls can be formed out of a pound of lead. So with a 12 gauge, the internal bore measures .73 inch and it takes 12 lead balls this size to make one pound of lead.
How many pellets are in a 12 gauge shotgun shell?
The number of pellets in a 12 gauge shotgun shell relies on the type of shell being shot and primarily, the size of the shot in the shell. Shot comes in a variety of sizes. The largest is 000 shot (pronounced triple aught), which measures .36 inch in diameter. The smallest is #9 shot, with a .08 inch diameter. There is #12 shot ammo, commonly called snake shot, but it’s not available in 12 gauge. In a one ounce 000 12 gauge shell, there are six pellets. In a one ounce #9 12 gauge shell, there are 585 pellets. The heavier the cartridge, the more pellets the shooter can expect.
What are the different types of 12 gauge shotgun shells?
There are many types of 12 gauge shotgun shells. They can differ in size of pellets, with common options available in buckshot (sizes 000, 00, 0, #1, #2, #3), birdshot (#3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #7.5, #8, #8.5, #9), and slugs. Twelve gauge shotgun shells also come in different lengths (primarily 2 ¾ through 3 ½ inch shells) and different weights. There are also specialty 12 gauge rounds, many with a focus on self defense, including .4 buckshot which can be found by ammunition manufacturers like Remington, Hornady, and Sellier & Bellot.
What is the best 12 gauge shotgun ammo for home defense?
Choosing the best 12 gauge shotgun ammo for home defense depends on a variety of factors, including how much power the shooter can handle, if overpenetration is a concern, and finding an ammunition that is both reliable and affordable for the shotgun in use. While most buckshot and birdshot ammo can cause significant damage during a home invasion, there are specialty rounds made just for home defense. Examples include Federal Premium Personal Defense, Hornady Critical Defense, and Winchester PDX1 Defender. Those who struggle with recoil may opt for Remington Managed-Recoil Buckshot while a frangible slug reduces the risk of overpenetration.
What is the best 12 gauge shotgun ammo for skeet and target shooting?
The best 12 gauge shotgun ammo for skeet, trap, and target shooting often depends on the shooter and their shotgun. Because 12 gauge shotguns push out a lot of power, fatigue plays a role for both the skeet and trap shooter, especially in competition shooting, and many may opt for a load that offers reduced recoil. Many skeet shooters use a shot size of #8, #8.5, or #9, which are known for their short, high density patterns, while trap shooters, who must make a longer shot, prefer a shot size of #7.5 or #8. Some of those who have been shooting at clay for years like to reload their own ammo, getting the perfect fit for their specific shotgun. When shopping, consider options like Winchester AA, Remington Premier Nitro Sporting Clays, or Federal Top Gun Target Loads.
What 12 gauge shotgun ammo has the least recoil?
When a shooter is looking for the least recoil possible in a 12 gauge shotgun shell, they can opt for a reduced-recoil load. While almost all manufacturers of shotgun shells make these lighter loads, some of the most reliable include Fiocchi LE, Hornady TAP, and Remington Managed Recoil. When a shooter really wants to reduce recoil, opt for the Aguila Minishell, which, due to its small size, has significantly less recoil than full-sized ammunition.
What is a 12 gauge slug and how far does it travel?
A 12-gauge slug is a solid projectile that can be fired from a shotgun. The shotgun slug allows the shotgun to be used in situations where shot being fired is not effective, such as when hunting medium to large game or when firing at a target beyond the traditional range of a shotgun. Rifled slugs reach extreme powers and can range, on the low end, to the energy output of a .45 ACP and, at the high end, a .30-06. While traditional lead slugs lose much of their killing velocity by 100 yards, modern sabot slugs, which travel faster and hold their shape, can still be deadly at 200 yards or more.
What is the difference between 12 gauge and 20 gauge?
The difference between a 12 gauge and 20 gauge is found in the bore, or in the shotgun’s internal barrel diameter. The bore of a 12 gauge barrel is .729 inch while the bore of a 20 gauge barrel is .615 inch, a difference of .114 inch. While just over one-tenth of an inch may not seem like much, it makes a significant difference in power and recoil when shooting, and many find the smaller 20 gauge easier to handle.
12 Gauge Ballistics: Chart of Average 12 Gauge Ballistics
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type loads.
|Shell Length||Shot Ozs.||Shot Sizes||Load Style||Dram Equivalent||Velocity (fps)|
|3-1/2" Magnum||2-1/4||4, 5, 2006||Premium||Max||1300|
|2||5, 6, 2007||Lead||Max||1250|
|2||4, 5, 2006||Copper-Plated Turkey||Max||1200|
|2||00 Buck||Coated Lead||Max||1100|
|1-3/4||BB, 2, 4||High Density||Max||1225|
|1-3/8||T, BBB, BB, 2, 4||Heavyweight||Max||1450|
|1-3/8||BBB, BB, 2||Steel||Max||1500|
|1-1/2||BBB, BB, 2, 3||FS Steel||Max||1475|
|1-3/8||BB, 2||H-Speed Steel||Max||1625|
|300 Grain||BBB, BB, 1, 2, 3, 4||XP3||Max||1275|
|1-3/8||BB, 2, 3, 4||Steel||3-5/8||1635|
|1-1/8||BB, 2, 4||Snow Goose FS||Max||1500|
|1-1/8||T, BBB, BB, 2, 4, 5, 6||Steel||Max||1450|
|1-1/8||Hex, BB, 2||FS Lead||Max||1400|
|1-3/8||T, BBB, BB||Blind Side||Max||1400|
|1-1/4||1, 2, 3, 4, 6||Steel||4||n/a|
|2||BB, 2, 4, 6||Premium||4||1210|
|1-3/4||4, 5, 2006||Turkey||Max||1200|
|1-3/4||5, 6, 2007||Coated Lead||Max||1250|
|1-3/4||BB, 2, 4||Multi-Combo||Max||1450|
|1-3/4||BB, 2||High Density||Max||1450|
|1-1/2||BB, 2, 4||Hevi-Shot||Max||1300|
|1-1/2||3, 4, 5, 6||Slug||Max||1350|
|1-3/8||B, 2, 4, 6||High Density||Max||1450|
|1-3/8||Hex, 1, 3, 5||Blind Side||Max||1400|
|1-1/8||BB, 2, 3, 4||Steel||Max||1550|
|2-3/4"||1-3/8||4, 5, 2006||Lead||Max||1250|
|1-3/8||4, 5, 2006||Turkey||Max||1400|
|1-3/8||BB, 2, 4, 5, 6||Steel||Max||1300|
|1-3/8||BB, 2, 4, 5, 6||Bismuth||Max||1260|
|1-1/2||Hex, 2, 5||Magnum||3-3/4||1400|
|1-1/4||BB, 2, 4, 5, 6||Supreme H-V||Max||n/a|
|1-1/4||B, 2, 4||High Velocity||3-3/4||1450|
|1-1/4||4, 6||High Density||Max||1325|
|1-1/4||6, 7-1/2, 8, 9||High Density||Max||1220|
|1-1/4s||3, 4, 5, 6||Standard Velocity||3-1/4||1350|
|1-1/8||2, 4||Standard Velocity||n/a||1390|
|300 Grain||Sabot Slug||Sabot||n/a||2050|
|3/4||.73 Rubber Slug||Tracer||Max||600|
|130 Grain||Zinc Slug||Less Lethal||Max||n/a|
|1||T, BBB, BB, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6||Steel||3||1275|
|1-1/4||BB, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6||Steel||3-1/2||1365|
|1-1/8||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7||Steel||3-3/4||1390|
|1-1/8||7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2, 9||Spreader||3||1200|
|1-1/8||7-1/2, 8, 9||Target||3||1200|
|1-1/8||7-1/2, 8||Low Recoil||2-3/4||1145|
|1-1/8||7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2, 9||Target||2-1/4||1080|
|1||7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2, 9||Spreader||Max||1300|
|1||7-1/2, 8, 9||Target||3-1/4||1290|
|1||7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2, 9||Target||3||1235|
|1||7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2, 9||Target||2-3/4||1180|
|1-1/4||Attached Sabot||Saboted Slug||Max||1550|
|1||Slug, Magnum||Slug, Rifled||Max||1680|
|400 Grain||Sabot Slug||Platinum Tip||Max||1700|
|385 Grain||Slug||Patrition Gold Slug||Max||1900|
|385 Grain||Sabot Slug||Bonded||Max||1900|
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- Dave said:
"Good ammo at a fair price worked well in my pump and semi auto. The only down fall I see is I wish the wad covered the shot so the lead wouldn't dirty the barrel as much. Over all very happy. "
- Tazz said:
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- Dave said:
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- sixftmoose said:
"I have always trusted Federal ammo to be good quality and this 12 gauge ammo once again proves to me that Federal knows what they are doing when it comes to making ammo! I have had no problems what so ever with any of the ammo I purchased from Ammo.com and I'm a life long customer after dealing with them, the ammo arrived quickly and has served its purpose. I used the ammo in my brand new Mossberg 500 and it cycled properly with no problems, consistent pattern, reasonable recoil and came in a handy little ammo can in great shape (Nice little bonus if you ask me!) I would recommend this ammo to anyone looking for a good quality 00 Buck."
- Hondobob said:
"I've gone through two cans of this excellent shotgun ammo without complaint. It cycles just fine in my old Winchester 1897, High Standard Supermatic, and a Norinco clone of the Colt 1878 side-by-side. Good patterns and power with manageable recoil. Some ammo cans are loaded with 25-round boxes, others with smaller boxes, but always a total of 175 rounds. An excellent choice for hunting or defense. I'm buying more when it's available."
- Bascat said:
"I purchased the ammo for use in 3 gun matches. The ammo shoots well considering the price, The drawback is the crimp. This ammo has a roll crimp instead of a normal crimp which makes it too long for the shoot shell carriers used in 3 gun and cuts down on the capacity that can be loaded in the shotgun tube."
- Rusty said:
"Useing ammo shooting hogs from helicopter works great Thanks Rusty"
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- CB said:
"Purchased 500 rounds of this ammo, shot 25 rounds without any problems. With the discount from facebook this purchase per box was cheaper than any other place I could have purchased this ammo. I have shot this ammo before with no problems, cycles well in my Saiga 12."
- Ariel said:
"This is great low recoil buckshot, it's perfect for pistol grip only shotguns because of its low recoil. The pattern is also very tight. The crimp is also better than what I usually see on other brands so the buffer wont leak out into the magazine tube. You can't go wrong with this ammo and I plan to order more when its back in stock."
- Tinacn said:
"When I bought a used Mossberg-manufactured12ga fully rifled slug barrel for my Remington 870, I bought several different brands and loadings of slugs to pattern from the bench. These slugs shot the tightest groups of ANY I tried, had manageable recoil and were among the least expensive per round. I had Brenneke-style slugs, plain rifled Foster unsaboted slugs, as well as a couple of the newer saboted, all copper and copper hollow-point types costing $3-$4 or more per round. Some 2 3/4" and some 3". I see no reason to sue any other brand or load in my particular shotgun."
- Ronald said:
"Researched 12 ga 00 Buck ammo. availability and price locally and on-line before finding Ammo.com. (referred by a friend). Pleasantly surprised by the stock and price of this and other cal. of ammunition at Ammo.com. Order arrived super fast and I am very pleased with selection, price, and delivery of my order. How pleased? Well I sent a link to all my friends and associates about Ammo.com. Great to know that 1% of my sale went to a 2nd Amendment - Pro-Gun organization of my choice too! Keep up the great work Ammo.com."
- spymyeyes said:
"Quality ammo MADE IN AMERICA! Every round went bang and cycled perfectly. For bulk orders they should cut down on the excessive packaging. 50 or 100 rounds per box instead of 5 rounds per box."
- Bud Jones said:
"Tight pattern maximizing impact on threat. Never had one fail to fire. My go to self defense shell. And fun to shoot. "
- Kristian223 said:
"Shot all 250 rounds in one and a half hours not one miss fire or hickup, great clay ammo will be buying more in the future."
- Zip Waytt said:
"The pattern was awesome. The shot had no problem hitting the target and knocking them down."
- Mike said:
"Shot this through a VR-80 and another auto-loader. Never cycled in the VR-80 and sometimes it did in the other one. "
- bogertw said:
"Took my new Benelli Nova Pump to the range and the first 4 shells in a row (from 2 separate boxes) fired fine, but jammed the fore-end so I couldn't eject the shell without very forcefully yanking back. I assume the brass casing expanded way more than it should have. I then tried 4 different brands and each worked flawlessly. Put the Rio back in and it jammed immediately. I ended up switching to an over-under gun and they performed fine in that. So, they may work fine for you in a different type of gun, but I wouldn't recommend them for a Benelli pump."